Here you are. You’ve just arrived at Kullu valley, India. You’re all geared up to explore the Valley.
You even decided that you want to do things differently this time…
So, imagine yourself coming to the hotel desk and asking the receptionist for some interesting things you can do and see while you’re around.
Here’s what the guy at the desk (a receptionist, dressed up in a 3 piece suit with his name badge pinned to the lapel) would tell you: “We’ve got a special cultural program tonight at the pool for you. It includes folk dancing and local singing. Would you like me to reserve a table for you, sir?”
But that’s not quite it, huh? You wanted to get a chance for something new.
Don’t worry, because here’s what you can do…
(Before reading on, we’ve got a piece of advice for you: there’s a lot of information here that can be helpful if you’re planning a trip to Kullu Valley in India, so we recommend bookmarking this page)
Move On To Naggar To Get A Proper Base Camp To Your Kullu Valley Experiences
After a short journey to Naggar, which is approximately 20 Km either if you’re coming from Manali or Kullu (the Valley’s capital), you’ll reach Naggar. Now you’re right in the center of Kullu Valley.
It’s time to check into the hotel, freshen up, and ask the receptionist the same question.
Only this time, the story is slightly different.
Meet the Locals and Get Involved
Let’s have a short simulation just to illustrate the difference when you come down to the receptionist asking the same question.
“Well…” That’s how he’ll start.
“As you step out this door you’ll be right in the heart of things. If you head to Shiva temple you’ll see a sacred puja (prayer) held every evening. Tonight though, there’s a special puja and the entire village is attending.
You can just join in. Sit down with the crowd and enjoy the food and music. The Pujari(A Hindu priest) will be chanting some Mantras and everybody (one by one) will come near the temple’s sanctum to get a Darshan from the deity.
“Darshan”– what’s that?”
“It’s the sacred sight – the whole purpose of visiting the temple. It’s when you’re looking at the deity and he/she looks back at you. The sight is a special realm of connection between you and God.
He goes on…
“Tomorrow there’s a party going on. One of the locals is celebrating his retirement and he’s throwing a big party at his house. You’re invited!”
“Who, me?” you’re surprised. “I don’t even know him… “
“Everybody’s invited! And I don’t only mean people from Naggar, but also folks from all over the valley. There’ll be great local music performances on the balcony. I can’t think of a better opportunity for you to see the local Kullu dances.
“He’s so happy to retire, huh?” You may ask.
“After 30 years in the forest department, you would be too.” Our imaginary receptionist may answer.
“So will you come?”
Do I have a choice?
“Sure! You can go trekking!”
That’s the end of our short simulation.
Now you know you’ve reached the right place to discover the authentic Kullu valley. And Naggar will be your base camp.
So Are You Ready For Some Trekking Adventures?
Naggar is perfectly located for some ‘foot-work’ explorations. Just put on your trekking boots, and you’re all set to meet face to face with the nomadic societies that live where the alpine parts of the Trans Himalayan ranges begin, herding their cattle in the lush green meadows.
Spending a night or two in their huts, looking at the stars, is an experience you’re going to keep for life – guaranteed!
For that kind of experience, this is the trek you should do:
The Chandrakhani trek:
The two days walk from Naggar to the quirky village of Malana (which is worldwide famous for its Ganja) is the most rewarding trek in the lower parts of the Himalayas. Spectacular views with moderate alpine experience combined with pine forest walking. As usual, what makes it brilliant is the fact that it’s all wrapped up with some great local folklore.
To absorb the vibe of the remotest villages in Kullu, here are some more trekking options for you:
Naggar to Sohil ( Via Halan ) :
An easy trek which will add more flavors to your entire Kullu experience. It’s a short forest walk that starts at Naggar and ends at Sohil. It will give you a good impression of the way people live in the lower parts of the Himalayas. You can make it in just one day; however, you should stay the night at Sohil and absorb the village atmosphere. There’re no hotels or guesthouses in Sohil, but you can ask us to find you a place to stay there.
Note: Same as the Chandrakhani Pass – you should not attempt this trek without someone who can show you the way.
If you’d like to hear the temple bells ringing and encounter dwelling Sadhus (Hindu monks) searching for the universal truth, then you’d better head on to the Bijli Mahadev temple.
Naggar to the Bijli Mahadev Temple
To get to the Bijli Mahadev temple, you can take a bus from Naggar- you’ll reach there within one and a half hours. The bus will drop you 3 Km below the temple, and from there you’ll have to walk up. But why not walk by foot on the old pilgrimage trail straight from Naggar, the ancient capital, to the most important Shiva shrine in the region? And while you’re at it, don’t forget to stop by at Jana waterfalls for the most authentic and delicious local meal.
The Naggar – Bijli Mahadev trek is an easy two-day trek that takes you along the range that runs above the Beas River. The Bijli Mahadev temple is located exactly where this mountain range begins. This trek is not just about breathtaking views along the way and from the temple itself, but you’ll also get the whole nine yards of a Hindu Yatra (pilgrimage) experience.
We do recommend you break down the distance and spend the night at Mata kuchi forest rest house, which is halfway between Naggar and Bijli Mahadev.
Don’t even think of skipping lunch on the 1st day at Mani Ram’s Dhaba at the Jana waterfalls.
Here’s a more adventurous one…
Hamta pass Trek
The 4-day Hamta pass allures many trekkers because it crams in a perfect combination of open meadows, green pine forests, glacier valleys and spectacular views of the 6000 meters Deo Tiba peak and the 6200 meters Indrasan. Not as easy as the three treks mentioned above, but worth doing! For further details, contact us.
While trekking in and around Naggar, discovering the remotest villages, you may stumble upon some of the Black Magic and shamanic rituals that have always been part of the valley’s religious life.
Encounters with the Mysterious Sides of Kullu
Click the play button to see what we mean.
The person with long hair is the ‘Gur’ – that’s the shaman or oracle, and he’s getting into a Trance to speak with the local gods in the name of the villagers. These shots were captured by Prashant ( Who always knows to catch the moments) on his mobile phone camera.
Kullu Valley is known as ‘Dev Bhoomi’, the Land of Gods. Naggar has been its religious center as far back as remembered. As its center, Naggar calumniates most of the important religious activities happening in the valley.
If you stay in Naggar for some time, chances are you’ll stumble across not only the conservative aspects of Hinduism’s daily life practices but also the phenomena of Shamanism which is abundant in the Kullu Valley.
Kullu Valley holds a long and ancient tradition of a ‘different reality’ religious system. Some of the unique sacred rituals, magic and alternative religious practices, traditional healing techniques and exorcisms practiced can be seen just about everywhere at any time.
To get the full scale, you can check out the beautiful Discovery channel documentary that aired a couple of months ago, called “The Shamans of the Himalayas”.
So, as you can see, there are loads of things to do and see in Naggar and other parts of Kullu valley. We recommend spending at least 7 days here at Naggar to have a meaningful traveling experience.
You’ve Got To See The Fantastic Temple-Architecture At Naggar
There are 369 temples in Kullu valley, but the temples in Naggar are considered to be amongst the most sacred. Apart from playing the role of Kullu’s political center, then and now, Naggar is also Kullu’s spiritual center. The temples here display various architectural styles, which are the most spectacular in the valley (though I’m probably biased).
We’ll only mention the most notable and impressive ones here, so you won’t get the “oh they all look the same to me” impression.
Along with the Hadimba temple at Dunghri, the wooden Tripusundri temple exhibits the finest Pagoda style temples of the western Himalayas. This three-story temple is alternately arranged with layers of stone and wood. Locals say that this building technique makes it earthquake-proof. Fortunately, we never saw that come to the test. Most of Naggar’s public religious rituals are held at the Tripura Sundari temple. The temple is located just below the Roerich Art Gallery road.
Dedicated to Krishna, the temple is located uphill above the town and offers spectacular views over the southern parts of the Kullu valley. This beautiful Shikhara (tower) temple is probably the only Krishna temple in Kullu Valley. Nobody can tell when it was built; however, the locals link the temple to the great epic of the Mahabharata.
Now, grab yourself a kettle of chai at the village below and climb up to the temple before sunset.
Behind the temple, there’s a balcony where you can just chill while looking at the sunset over the Himalayan Mountains.
Gauri Shankar Temple
This Shikhara (tower) style temple is dedicated to Shiva, and dates to the 11th -12th century AD. It is considered the last monument of the ancient Pratihara Dynasty which ruled the northern parts of India between the 6th-12th Centuries. The stone temple’s walls are decorated with dancers, birds, and musicians. Images of the goddess Gauri and Shankar are enshrined in the temple’s sanctum.
So, get your camera ready and hit the evening Puja while you’re there.
Now let’s go on to some of the villages around Naggar.
“The True India Lies In Its Villages” (Mahatma Gandhi)
While discovering Kullu’s remote villages, this observation by Gandhi becomes very vivid.
Naggar is surrounded by endless valleys, all dotted with tiny villages. Visiting its remotest villages is the best way to absorb the special vibe of the valley, or in other words, to penetrate its soul.
Less than an hour’s drive from Naggar lays the Jana waterfall. More than any other village in the region, Jana preserves the distinct characteristics of traditional Kullu. Yet, most people tend to skip it for some reason. Most visitors come to visit the waterfalls and turn around. Make sure you’re not one of them. Jana Village still holds the old fashion lifestyle; the typical Kullu house architecture, traditional farming methods, traditional clothing and above all – warm hospitality. You’ll probably get invited for a cup of Chai at somebody’s house. Don’t pass on it!
So hop on the bus which passes next to Sonam hotel every morning at 7:45 for a one hour ride.
If you’re in the time travel business, you should try to climb up to Rumsu Village which is located 3 km from Naggar on the Roerich Art Gallery road. The gorgeous wooden Hindu temple, situated in the village center, is the finest example of Kullu’s temple architecture.
A 30-minute ride from Naggar on the local bus to Haripur. Add 25 more minutes by foot and you get to Sohil. This pastoral village is locked between two enormous mountain ranges that keep it isolated from the rest of the valley. It was isolated enough for a few hippie families that settled in it permanently 20 years ago. Strange blend, but as it’s often said, India has a wired capacity to populate all sorts of things…
Pangaun Village and the Pangaun Monastery
You may be surprised to know that you don’t have to go to Ladakhif you want to see Buddhist Lamas. There are some beautiful, lesser-known, Buddhist monasteries in Kullu in which you won’t get blinded with camera flashes. The small Nyingma sect monastery near the Pangaun Village is a must-see if you’re interested in Buddhism. Do not miss the fantastic walk in the apple orchards towards the sleepy village of Pangan.
Here’s A Bonus Point For You: The Best Moms In India for Less Than $1
If we must admit it, Himalayan food won’t be the thing you’ll tell about to your friends back home. And that is an understatement. If you want great food, you’ll have to go down to south India
But sometimes, there are surprises. Simple ones, nothing fancy, and they are usually discovered when you follow the tips of the locals. One of these surprises has been a small Dhaba situated just below the Tripura Sundari temple in Naggar.
It’s called Asha’s Momo Sabha. Most people in Kullu Valley will tell you that Asha makes “the best Momos in India and even better than in China”. She’s been running this small place for 15 years now and serving one dish only- guess what it is? Momos. It comes in 5 pieces plates with a chili sauce on the side. Okay, let’s put it this way: it’s addictive!
Now Over To You
Have you been to Kullu valley? Are there more hidden gems that we should know about? Leave a comment and let us know.